Film M15: Intro to Documentary Fall 2015 Professor Alison Hoffman-Han Final Essay / Project Assignment Due Date: Tuesday, December 15 at 12:30 pm (turn in a hard-copy/print-out in class, and be prepared to discuss it, too) CHOOSE EITHER OPTION #1 or OPTION #2 ————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————– OPTION #1: This assignment asks you to analyze the mode, form (or “visual style”), and content of one of the contemporary documentary films listed below. With this assignment, you’re provided the opportunity to bring together a wide, but specific range of issues we have examined closely in this course. You should focus your argument on the relationship between the film’s documentary mode, form, and content. That is, how does the mode, form, and content of the film convey meaning, and how do they influence its ideas, themes, and construction of “reality”? What are the strengths and weaknesses of the film’s mode(s) and overall approach to its topic? What is gained and what is lost by using this particular approach? How does the mode (or modes) follow or break with the ways they are usually employed in the history of documentary? (Use Nichols and the PDF readings, class lecture notes, and any outside research you find valuable.) And, since contemporary documentaries have increasingly questioned the validity and construction of documentaries in general, is the problem of representing reality reflexively and/or performatively revealed or interrogated in the film itself? After you’ve chosen a film for the assignment and viewed it, please feel free to visit me during office hours. I’m more than happy to recommend specific questions and approaches you should consider for your paper. Write about one of the documentaries listed below. Most can be found on Amazon, iTunes, Netflix, and/or our campus library. Grizzly Man (Werner Herzog, 2005) Stories We Tell (Sarah Polley, 2012) The Flat (Arnon Goldfinger, 2011) The Act of Killing (Joshua Oppenheimer, 2012) Cutie and the Boxer (Zachary Heinzerling, 2013) Tabloid (Errol Morris, 2010) Standard Operating Procedure (Errol Morris, 2008) Mentally unstable man dies trying to “save” grizzly bears Personal meditation on family, identity & documentary truth Personal look at the legacy of Nazi Germany & Jewish identity Former Indonesian death squads re-enact their mass-killings Chaotic “love story” of Japanese pop artists living in NYC Former Miss Wyoming charged with sexual assault Abu Ghraib prison scandal uncovered & examined General Guidelines: You need to have a thorough and specific thesis presented in your introduction (for help: see all handouts on our MyVCCCD course page under “Writing Tips”). The bulk of your paper is then evidence in support of this thesis. Try to focus on a few specific scenes or sequences in the film you analyze which will illustrate or support your argument. Do not merely re-tell the story of the film. Assume that your reader has seen the film, and use descriptions sparingly, only to back up your arguments. You must cite your readings (from Nichols, the additional PDF readings on-line, and outside research), which will help strengthen and clarify your arguments. Style guidelines: 1. Papers must be 5-6 pages (12-point Times font, double-spaced, 1-inch margins). 2. Papers must have a title which is NOT just the name of the film you are analyzing–the title should reflect the paper’s topic and argument. 3. When citing an author’s work, at end of the sentence put the author’s name and source page # in parentheses: (Nichols 35). If you use an Internet source, identify the source by title, such as (Internet Movie Database) at the end of the sentence and cite the full Internet address (http://www…) in your bibliography. (Use only reliable and well-known Internet sources!) All sources should be fully cited at end of your paper in a bibliography. Use one method consistently, preferably MLA format. 4. Italicize all book and film titles. Put article titles in quotation marks; italicize names of periodicals. * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * OPTION #2: This assignment asks you to imagine, conceptualize, strategically plan & create a “treatment” or “proposal” for your own short or feature-length documentary film (that you will hopefully create in the near future!). Treat this assignment as an opportunity to let your ambition, passions, and creativity soar: the more detailed and well thought-out your treatment/proposal, the better your future documentary film will be & the easier it will be to organize, shoot & edit. Questions to Respond to & Elements to Include (all of these need to be covered): What documentary film do you think our culture needs to see & experience? How come? What “real life” stories need to be heard, and what questions/problems would you like to see tackled? You will need to select and describe in detail your documentary’s topic & the key questions it will raise/ask. You must then select the mode you will utilize, and then describe why you chose that mode (why it’s the most appropriate/engaging mode for presenting this topic) and how you will utilize it through film form ( “visual style” & “sound design”). You also must come up with a list of 5-10 potential interview subjects (i.e. people you will interview for the film). Remember: the topic is up to you! (Continued on other side…) Content, Formatting & Style Guidelines: a. Treatments/proposals must be 5-6 pages of text (12-point Times font, double-spaced, 1-inch margins). b. The title for your treatment/proposal will be the same as the title of the documentary you’re conceptualizing/planning/creating. You must come up with a compelling, catchy & appropriate title for your documentary, and then discuss why you chose that title. c. The sections of your treatment/proposal should flow as follows: 1. Title of Documentary; 2. Detailed Description of Documentary Topic; 3. Rationale for Choosing Topic & Title; 4. Five Key Questions You Will Raise/Tackle in this Documentary; 5. Chosen Documentary Mode & Detailed Reasons Why; 6. Ideas for Visual & Sound Design; 7. List & Description of 5-10 Potential Interview Subjects; 8. “Inspiration” Documentaries (other films you can look to for inspiration/ideas/expertise); 9. Intended Audience; 10. Goals & Purpose of Film; 11. Any Other Important Details, Ideas & Final Remarks. Number your sections and follow this above structure; this is not a traditional essay, but a “treatment.” d. You are welcomed & encouraged to include images in your treatment/proposal, but they do not count towards the page minimum requirement. You need at least 5 pages of text–period. Images should be included to make your treatment/proposal more meaningful, visually appealing and professional-looking, not to fill space. General Information on Writing a Documentary Treatment or Proposal: Scripts are not often used in documentary films because you cannot predict what will happen when the camera is rolling. In place of a script, filmmakers use treatments & proposals to describe and help plan a documentary project. Treatments & proposals provide thorough descriptions of all aspects of a project. They are created in the “pre-production” stage of a documentary project to organize the film and persuade others to support the project. An effective treatment/proposal will: • Present a personal, critical perspective on some aspect of the human condition (whether minor, major or in-between). • Inform their reader and potentially capture their attention, enthusiasm & emotions • Addresses whether any media work has already been produced on this subject. If so, what is new, different, interesting, engaging about your approach? • Identify the documentary’s style (any key stylistic elements in concept, mode, design, cinematography, audio, editing, etc.) • Touch on ideas for the film’s soundtrack (any music, narration, etc.—if so, who? what?) • Provide some historical background or context of the story • Specifies the who, what, where, when, how, and why of the proposed documentary Write in the active-voice in present tense. Tell the reader what they will see and hear on the screen. Describe the concept/ story and introduce your documentary “subjects” and/or “characters.” Write colorfully, so the reader visualizes what’s in your mind’s eye—but avoid splashy adjectives and hyperbole wherever possible (i.e. do not write: “This spellbinding documentary will be magically brought to life by remarkable camera work capturing observational truth and poetry…”). Be specific—try your best not to use words like may, might, possibly—your film will do xyz. For example, if you don’t know exactly which music you will use—make your best guess—you can always change your mind later. In many (if not all) cases, for this project, you will write what you expect to occur, but do write those expectations with purpose, confidence & authority. Whether you choose OPTION 1 or OPTION 2, have fun with this final essay/project! Enjoy the process of creating your assignment & exploring these ideas. It’s not about creating a perfect project or paper, but learning through the process of doing it. I’ve so enjoyed working with you all this semester & can’t wait to see what you create. Good luck!
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